GHDI logo

A Nobleman Lives for War, Plunder, and Adventure – Götz von Berlichingen (1480-1562)

page 8 of 11    print version    return to list previous document      next document

The oath compelled me to go them at Buchen, or else my wife and children, also other nobles, would be harmed. I swore the oath with a sad, troubled, and oppressed heart, as I had no taste for being killed [by them], which is what had happened recently to many fine nobles at Weinsberg. I still hoped that some good would come of it, and so the next day I rode to their camp, wishing all the while that I were instead in the worst prison of the Turks, or in the world. But it went as it must, as God willed, just as He would help me out this.

When I came to the rebel army, feeling God alone knows how, they took my horse by the rein and said I must dismount and enter their circular formation. Then they spoke to me about the command, which I utterly refused to accept, for I knew it would be incompatible with my honor and my duties. I added that I did not understand what they were doing, and that their nature and mine were as different from one another as heaven from earth. Also, I cannot honor an obligation whose fulfillment would be against God, His Imperial Majesty, the electors, princes, counts, barons, and ordinary nobles, also against the Swabian League and all the Imperial estates. I asked them to release me from this obligation. All in vain, for, in short, I had to serve as their commander. Then I said that before I would be their commander and act as tyrannically as they had at Weinsberg, or even counsel or aid in such an act, they would have to kill me like a mad dog. They replied that it could happen, but if not now, then perhaps never.

Then came envoys from Mainz as negotiators to the camp at Buchen (12). There were no fewer than five or six, Marx Stumpff was among them, also a fellow I did not recognize at first, named Rucker (13). The Mainz envoys asked me, as they did Marx Stumpff, to accept this command of the peasants for the sake of their gracious lord, plus all the princes and all the nobles, high and low, in the Empire, for in this way I would prevent a great deal of evil. I replied, if the peasants will abandon their project and obey their rulers and lords by way of service, labor dues, justice, and military service, according to tradition, and if they will behave toward their rulers as honest, obedient subjects as properly befits dutiful subjects and underlings, I will accept the charge for eight days.

They proposed that I serve for a longer time, and in the end we agreed on one month. During this month, however, they must all agree in writing that in all lordships and districts, towns, hamlets, and villages, whether at home or anywhere else, far or near, they will obey the aforementioned terms and will not burn or damage any prince’s or noble’s home. These terms were accepted by their councilors and captains, those whom I thought suitable, especially one named Wendel Hipler, as able a man and secretary as one could find in the Empire. He had formerly been chancellor of Hohenlohe, but, as far as I knew, the counts of Hohenlohe were not giving him much to do now, so I took him into service. Then the captains and I made a treaty, as I’ve said, that they would obey, etc., and would send the treaty back to all the districts and lordships from which they came. The oath and treaty were announced to and accepted by the Odenwald army and its captains, so my understanding was that the matter stood as described, and that it was accepted.

But what actually happened? The rebels wanted to move from Amorbach to Miltenberg to meet Count Jörg von Wertheim, who wanted to negotiate peace with those damned people. And after I left them, they assembled, unbeknownst to me, the whole army, with the following result. The peasants who had been called up arrived, accompanied by their councilors. They said that if they were to fight for their freedom, as they were called and commanded to do, they would behave just as they had been doing, and such things. They caused a tumult in the army by swearing an oath with raised fingers to kill me and those who had made the treaty with me and had sent it to these peasants, because it obliged them to follow and obey the agreement we had made.

God, I knew nothing about this, and rode back to the army to see what the damned fellows had done. A fighter came down, a man from Heilbronn who had joined the peasants [ . . . ] and had heard all the speeches unknown to me. He briefly said to me, “Sir, don’t go to the army!” This made me angry, and I cursed them, “May the Devil strike you all down! What have I done?” for I could not have known what had happened or why I should take care. I had thought no more of the treaty, for I held it to be fixed and firm. And as I neared the army, I saw that Wildenberg Castle, which belongs to the bishop of Mainz, was in flames. That was completely against the treaty we had negotiated and established. When they had sworn to me near Buchen and wanted me to remain with them longer than I wanted to do, I had spoken openly to the whole army that they should give me the eight days, as agreed, and I would behave in such a way that they would sooner tire of me than I of them. And they agreed, so my charge was limited to eight days, as I’ve said.

(12) That is, from Cardinal Albrecht (1490-1545), the prince-archbishop of Mainz and an Imperial elector, a son of the house of Hohenzollern, a mighty accumulator of ecclesiastical benefices, and a dedicated sybarite – trans.
(13) Cardinal Albrecht’s secretary, Andres Rucker – trans.

first page < previous   |   next > last page